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Published On: Fri, Aug 30th, 2013

Before Elvis: The Prehistory of Rock ‘N’ Roll

Before ElvisBefore Elvis: The Prehistory of Rock ‘N’ Roll
By Larry Birnbaum
(Scarecrow Press)

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Before Elvis: The Prehistory of Rock ‘N’ Roll is an encyclopedic romp through the recent, but mostly the yesterday (pre- 1960’s) of where the music we know as rock and roll came from. Author Larry Birnbaum has delved deep here, deeper than I dare say anyone else ever truly has and unearthed some truths, dispelled some rumors and shed the spotlight on lots of music and musicians I am sure even the most ardent rock fan has never heard of.

But one should search these names and songs; there is a wealth of stuff to learn and listen to. The piano trio Ammons, Lewis and Johnson; archivist and recording engineer John Hammond, Eric Clapton are all listed here as are their contributions. We learn how “Rocket 88,” pretty much a great tune, is not by any stretch the first rock song (we even find how the label rock and roll came to be used and how far back it goes). We get a good dose of where country fits in as well as big band jazz (enjoying a much bigger role in the rock story then you’d ever imagine), meet some “Mystery Women” and learn many origins of tunes, bands and even trends.

I know there have been plenty before it and many more to come, but I’d be hard pressed to find a book as extensive on such a rich subject as Larry Birnbaum’s Before Elvis: The Prehistory of Rock ‘N’ Roll.

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Before Elvis: The Prehistory of Rock ‘N’ Roll